Scottish Liberal Democrat health spokesperson Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP has today called on the Scottish Government to mend its “chronically chaotic” approach to workforce planning as new statistics show the bill for NHS consultants’ overtime totalled more than £38,000 a day over the past three years.
Statistics obtained by Scottish Liberal Democrats from 9 of Scotland’s 14 health boards show £42.3 million was spent on consultants’ overtime and additional payments between 2014/15 and 2016/17. NHS Lanarkshire spent more than £3m in one year alone.
The latest statistics on NHS vacancies showed 7.7% (430.5 WTE) of consultant posts were vacant. Of these vacancies, 254.3 were vacant for six months or more, a year-on-year increase of 70.8.
Commenting, Mr Cole-Hamilton said:
"It is alarming that health boards are spending around £40,000 every day on overtime pay to keep services running.
“Consultants are working incredibly hard to keep us healthy but working long shifts and then taking on even more work above and beyond that is far from ideal for them or the patients they are treating.
“There will always be times when overtime is necessary to cover short term gaps in the workforce, but official statistics show that hundreds of consultant posts have been empty for six months or more.
“This money could be better invested in ensuring NHS boards have enough permanent staff in the first place. It could pay for at least 400 additional consultants.
"This sizeable bill shows why SNP Ministers must mend their chronically chaotic approach to workforce planning. We have seen ill-judged cuts to training places and plans only looking five years ahead, even though it takes seven years to train a doctor.
"Unfortunately, the indications are that they are still not on track. The SNP Government promised that part 3 of their workforce plan would be published in 2017 but the New Year has come and gone and there is no sign of it. It remains far from clear when health boards will have the staff, support and resources they need to deliver for patients."